Since 2020 John Preston and the Auxilium Foundation have been making seed grants to early career researchers (ECRs) to kickstart high impact pieces of marine science and conservation research. The idea behind the kickstarter grants is that they for the basis for getting a project off the ground and then subsequently are able to be used to secure further co-investment to grow the project or expand the scope of the work undertaken. 

For the 2023 awards we asked ECRs to submit a short (5-7 minute) video submission outline the focus of the proposed research program and to explain why the research was important in solving a real-world problem.

We received a number of very high quality submissions making the job of the judging panel incredibly difficult in selecting only two recipients.

We are incredibly proud to announce the 2023 grant recipients, Dr Laura Ryan of Macquarie University and Dr Cheng Chen of SIMS/Southern Cross University.

Dr. Laura Ryan
Postdoctoral ResearcherNeurobiology Lab (Macquarie University)
Dr. Cheng Chen
Postdoctoral research fellow (SIMS & Southern Cross University)

Dr Ryan in her work is studying the effects of colour in preferential colonisation of Living Seawall tiles. The natural shoreline of Sydney Harbour is comprised almost entirely of Hawkesbury sandstone which naturally ranges in colours from creams, through reds and oranges through to very dark browns. 

Living Seawall installations in Sydney Harbour have generally been shown to improve biological diversity by around 300% over surrounding control locations. Given the success of Living Seawalls using untinted eco-cement in supporting biological diversity, can using colours matching natural shorelines build further upon that success? Laura will use the Auxilium Kickstarter grant to try and answer this important question.

Dr. Laura Ryan’s winning submission
Dr. Cheng Chen’s winning submission

Dr Chen’s work is looking at artificial cloud or fog creation to provide cover for marine environments such as the Great Barrier Reef which are highly susceptible to bleaching events due to the impacts of heatwaves being driven by the effects of climate change. 

In February and March of 2023 Cheng completed fieldwork studying the effectiveness of using water cannons to create artificial clouds over the reef. They found one of the key variables in successfully developing water particles of the right size and volume was the design of the spray nozzles. Dr Cheng will use the Auxilium Kickstarter grant to try and develop optimised nozzle designs in the lab before testing in the field in the 2024 fieldwork program.